The Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.
Since key provisions of the Voting Rights Act were struck down, a number of states have passed "racially discriminatory voting laws" according to The Hill's Leah Aden.
For nearly 50 years, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required jurisdictions with the worst histories of voter discrimination–mostly, but not exclusively in the South—to notify the federal government of every proposed voting change and get its approval before implementing those changes, a process known as “preclearance.”
Without this transparency and scrutiny, states and local jurisdictions have directed their time, energy, and resources toward passing and defending racially discriminatory voting laws.
The Supreme Court claimed the provisions were no longer necessary because times have changed, but the bad behavior of states since the Court made its decision prove just how necessary these protections really were. Congress must restore full power to the Voting Rights Act.
But former Justice Antonin Scalia famously stated that the Voting Rights Act perpetuated "racial entitlement" by giving special protections to minority groups. Scalia argued senators were afraid to vote against the Voting Rights Act out of fear it would make them look like racists, rather than whether or not it was still necessary.
Scalia noted when the Voting Rights Act was first enacted in 1965, it passed over 19 dissenters. In subsequent reauthorizations, the number of dissenters diminished, until it passed the Senate without dissent seven years ago. Scalia’s comments suggested that this occurred, not because of a growing national consensus that racial disenfranchisement is unacceptable, but because lawmakers are too afraid to be tarred as racists. His inflammatory claim that the Voting Rights Act is a “perpetuation of racial entitlement” came close to the end of a long statement on why he found a landmark law preventing race discrimination in voting to be suspicious.
Roger Clegg argues in the National Review that while Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was a good idea in 1965, it just isn't necessary anymore.
This was a good idea in 1965, although even Chief Justice Earl Warren twice called the provision “stringent” in upholding it. At that time, whole swaths of the country were systematically and blatantly denying people the right to vote because of race. But is that still true in 2014? The answer, of course, is no. The South of 2014 is not the South of 1965.